This guide shows you how to form a Pennsylvania nonprofit corporation and apply for tax-exempt status.
You will need at least one initial director to oversee the registration process and provide necessary documentation and applications for your Pennsylvania nonprofit corporation. They must be of age and not associated with a business that benefits from a relationship with the corporation. Their responsibilities include managing the nonprofit and overseeing its activities. Corporate founders may act as directors. It’s important to choose directors who have sufficient accessibility and free time.
Your nonprofit corporation will need an approved name to file the legal registration paperwork to the Pennsylvania Department of State office. There are some rules to ensure your name is approved:
There are convenient ways to check if your chosen name is allowable. You can send written requests to:
Pennsylvania Department of State
Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations
P.O. Box 8722
Harrisburg, PA 17105-8722
Written requests carry a $15 fee, and you can only request information on three different names. If you want to reserve your name fill out this form and pay the $70 fee. Your name will be reserved for 120 days, after which you’ll need to apply for it again.
Domain names that use or complement your corporation’s name can be reserved, as well. ZenBusiness offers a service that helps find and register domain names.
While some states require nonprofit corporations to have a registered agent, Pennsylvania requires a registered office. The purpose of the registered office is to receive legal documents for the organization.
Documents are served to the registered office’s physical address that is filed with the documents for Articles of Incorporation (see below.) Report any changes in the registered office address to the Department of State. If your corporation doesn’t have a physical address, or you prefer not to have legal documents sent there, there are commercial registered office providers. You may not receive legal documents via a post office box. It’s easy to find a commercial registered office provider with ZenBusiness!
File a nonprofit Articles of Incorporation form with the Pennsylvania Department of State’s Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations. The submission costs $125. Go to the Keystone Login website to submit articles online. Businesses owned by veterans or reservists do not need to pay a fee. The Articles of Incorporation include:
New nonprofit corporations must also file a docketing statement with the Articles of Incorporation. The statement includes:
Pennsylvania requires that you publish a statement that you intend to file Articles of Incorporation in two general newspapers, one a legal publication if possible. Submit proof of publication with the corporation’s meeting minutes. The newspaper submissions must state that incorporation is planned or completed under the Nonprofit Law of 1988.
Bylaws for nonprofit organizations form a foundation for the group’s mission, structure, activities, finances, and goals. They function like an owner’s manual for corporations. Established at the start-up, the bylaws dictate how an organization is managed. Duties and responsibilities along with income and expense reconciliation processes are suggested items.
Keep in mind that the bylaws are not just internal guidelines; they have legal implications if they’re not followed. Therefore, it’s best if you engage a lawyer familiar with nonprofit corporations to ensure the bylaws follow all statutes and regulations.
The best bylaws provide transparency and accountability when made available to interested parties, with annual reviews and updates. Tailor them to match your corporation’s goals and capabilities, and be realistic in terms of what they govern.
Nonprofit corporation directors meet at least once per year. The timing and frequency of any additional meetings are decided during the bylaws’ creation. The initial meeting lays the groundwork for future meetings, including the agenda’s structure. Other topics may include how minutes are recorded and distributed to directors and other designated parties.
It’s during this meeting that new directors get a sense of how well the organization is doing, through financial and old-business reports. Agendas may include the following:
Retaining documents is essential, and there isn’t one specific way to organize and store them. A records binder holds meeting minutes, financial reports, legal documents, and other material supporting the nonprofit’s work.
The cloud is an efficient and easily accessible location for storage. Digital documents, proceedings, and scanned paper copies are efficiently stored on a shared corporate drive in the cloud.
Tax-exempt organizations must nonetheless file taxes, and for that, they need an Employer Identification Number (EIN). There are three steps to acquire an EIN online:
1. Determine whether your corporation is eligible using these criteria:
2. Read and understand the online application.
3. Submit the application to the IRS.
Your EIN arrives after the IRS validates it. You can also use the ZenBusiness EIN service to do the work for you.
You are responsible for acquiring any licenses or permits your nonprofit corporation needs. There is no central agency for all permits and licenses because licensing can be at federal, state, or local levels. Some are specific to certain types of nonprofit corporations.
To make things easier and less stressful, use the ZenBusiness business license report service.
Some tasks to accomplish before applying for tax-exempt status:
Once you have your federal tax exemption status, you are automatically tax-exempt for Pennsylvania. Contact the Pennsylvania Revenue Service for additional information.
Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations registers charities and maintains legal records on registered charitable organizations through the state’s charitable solicitation law. Form BCO-10 (Charitable Organization Registration Statement) is the vehicle by which a charity registers with the state.
It’s wise to find an insurance agent familiar with nonprofit corporations to assist in determining which types of insurance you need. You’ll need worker’s compensation insurance if you have on-site employees. You may also need unemployment insurance and general business insurance.
At ZenBusiness, we are proud to support small businesses through a variety of different tools and services. Whether you need a registered agent service or are looking to register a domain, our goal is to help you stay on the road to success. Check out our services, and contact us today to see how we can help you grow your company.
If a founder acts in the role of an employee, such as CEO, a salary is appropriate as compensation for running the corporation. Salaries come out of gross revenues.
The basic cost of starting a nonprofit corporation is $125, the cost for filing the Articles of Incorporation. Other potential fees include costs of services such as ancillary transactions, mergers and consolidations, and others. Check with the Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations for more information.
Profits are reinvested back into the organization.
Many types of businesses can be nonprofit in Pennsylvania. Organizations that are run for religious, scientific, charitable, or similar categories qualify. This can include public charities and private foundations, social welfare organizations, business leagues, and social/recreational clubs.
Nonprofits can sell products for raising funds related to their purpose. For example, Girl Scouts sell cookies, and high school teams sell a variety of fan items. These are only two examples of product fundraisers. Any income received from fundraising goes toward the purpose of the nonprofit.
Disclaimer: The content on this page is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.
Pennsylvania Business Resources
Form a Nonprofit In These States
Ready to Start a Pennsylvania Corporation?